President's Column: Why I Support Preservation


Katie Horak


Docomomo US


News, U.S. Board
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I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself to those of you I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. I’m Katie Horak, and I’m a member and director of Docomomo US as well as one of the co-founders of Docomomo’s Southern California Chapter. I live in Los Angeles, where I’m a principal at Architectural Resources Group and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Southern California in the School of Architecture’s Heritage Conservation program.


After serving on the Docomomo US Board of Directors for five years, I’ve been elected president. It is an honor to be here, following in the steady footsteps of Theo Prudon, FAIA, FAPT, and Bob Meckfessel, FAIA, who alongside Executive Director Liz Waytkus have led Docomomo US with thoughtfulness and unwavering commitment to the mission and future of the organization. I’m so grateful for this dedicated group of people and can’t wait to continue to work side-by-side with them, along with the rest of our staff, board of directors, and all of you.


I’m also pleased to introduce you to three new directors who have joined our board this year: Tonia Moy (Hawaii), architect and vice president at FAI, who helped to establish the Docomomo US Hawaii Chapter; Bob Thomas (Boston), real estate developer and co-founder of Saltaire Hotels, who we welcome back to the board after a brief hiatus; and Jingyi Luo (Pennsylvania), our newest student director, who is currently a second year graduate student in the Historic Preservation program at the University of Pennsylvania. Welcome, Tonya, Bob, and Jingyi!

As we forge ahead in the new year, I’ve found myself reflecting on the incredible work of the organization over the 20 years that I’ve been a member. My first exposure to Docomomo US was at the 2004 International Conference in New York. During the conference, I remember heated conversations about Edward Durell Stone’s then-threatened 2 Columbus Circle and whether it should be preserved. At that time, the building was only 40 years old, and there were many in the preservation and architecture community who didn’t think it was worthy of preservation – too young, too kitschy, too ugly. And now, in 2024, with Stone’s original design lost, I think most would agree that this decision was a terrible mistake that can’t be undone.

This is the call of Docomomo US – getting us to think critically not only about the buildings that are easy to preserve but also those that aren’t. And the fight never ends, with 60 Wall Street’s public lobby currently cordoned off for pending demolition and questionable “renovation” plans for Chicago’s Thompson Center unveiled to the public. This willingness to have the difficult conversations, to encourage us to think critically about what falls into the wobbly category of “modernism,” and to step into the front lines of the preservation battle are some of the many reasons I love Docomomo US, and why I think my support matters.


It's an exciting time to be part of the Docomomo community. In addition to our annual programs like the National Symposium, Tour Day, and the Modernism in America Awards, we have so many great events coming up this year and beyond.


This month, we return to Palm Springs for Modernism Week for a conversation with Sara Bronin, the Presidential and Congressional-appointed Chair to the U.S. Advisory Council for Historic Preservation, about the important work of the Council and how it relates to Modernism. (Docomomo US members, join us for free!).


In the fall, we’re celebrating the legacy of Docomomo US Founding President Theo Prudon and his contributions to Docomomo US and the architecture and education community at large with A Tribute to Theo, a gala and dinner at St. Peter’s Church in Manhattan, and the launch of the Theodore Prudon Fund for Preservation Education. You won’t want to miss this party, so mark your calendars now: September 25, 2024.


And finally, we’re looking ahead to 2026, when leaders and scholars from around the world will descend on my home city, Los Angeles, for the Docomomo International Conference. Together in the US for the first time since 2004, the global Docomomo community will gather to enjoy several days of lectures, tours, conversations, and parties in one of the richest and most diverse 20th-century architectural cities – dare I say it? – in the world. We’re already brainstorming insider tours and visits to iconic modern sites that are not otherwise accessible to the public.


This is just the tip of the iceberg! So, it’s time to get to moving, as we have a lot to accomplish together over the next year. I can’t wait to do this with all of you, my Docomomo US family.